Hall of Fame umpire Harvey, called best of all time and known as "God", passes at 87; began as IVC player

Doug Harvey
Doug Harvey

Doug Harvey, widely considered the best umpire of all time who was revered as "God" throughout baseball, got his start umpiring after an injury sidelined him as a player at Imperial Valley College.

Harvey, who died at 87 on Saturday, was an outstanding player for the Arabs and only  turned to umpiring when his junior college playing career ended after he broke his leg in a game. His dad had been a high school and junior college umpire in the Imperial Valley and those are the levels where the future Hall of Fame inductee then  got his umpiring start while still as an IVC student.

After recovering from the broken leg, Harvey resumed his playing career for what was then San Diego State College but after helping the Aztecs to an NAIA national championship returned to umpiring, rose quickly through the minor league level and the rest is history.

He made his Major League debut on April 10, 1962 and and umpired for 31 years, working 4,673 games, all in the National League, before retiring and being selected as "the Best Umpire of All Time" by the Society of American Baseball Research. He also was selected by the Major League Baseball Players Association as the best umpire of all time.

Harvey, who it is said memorized the baseball rule book, was so universally revered for his knowledge and control of games that players and managers began referring to him as "God". According to the Oct. 19, 1998 issue of Sports Illustrated, in an article titled "A Few Words From God", Lenny Dykstra of the Phillies bestowed that title on him when he stepped to the plate and simply said "Hi God".

Harvey was inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 2010, When  Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan, another one-time community college player (for Merritt College of Oakland), wrote on the HOF web site "Doug Harvey was the model that every umpire should strive to be. He was tolerant to a point, yet the players always knew he was in control."

On Monday, Richard Goldstein of the New York Times wrote, "He had silver hair, giving him someway of a regal air, and he was very much in charge, whether calling balls and strikes or on the bases, prompting players to refer to him as God."

Harvey was a crew chief for 18 years, worked in five World Series,  nine National League Championship Series and six All-Star games.

His biography is titled "They Called Me God: The Best Umpire That Ever Lived".

Not bad for someone who, growing up, drove a tractor on a farm in the Imperial Valley.

Harvey also is a member of the Imperial Valley College Hall of Fame.